Monday, 27 August 2012


If I had more time to think about it, or was getting paid to do it, or was just generally wittier, I'm sure I could come up with a Private Eye-style mixing-them-up joke about the two Armstrongs, and the fact that each of them made big news on consecutive days; both for wrong, but different reasons. You know the sort of thing: "Armstrong says 'I didn't dope....I walked on the moon using only adrenalin'", or perhaps "It's one small step for man...because the rest of the peloton were at it already..."

I'm not though, so I'm going to have to content myself with a paragraph on Lance. What's my angle? After all, everyone else seems to have one. Well, my angle is that I think this is a bigger issue to the wider sporting but non-cycling public than it is to cyclists. There are certainly the die-hard fans and the Lance-haters in the latter, but I don't think most of us care that much. Why? A few reasons. First, it doesn't surprise us that much, if you take his refusal to defend himself against the charges as a tacit admission of guilt. So many of his competitors failed doping tests and/or were banned for that and other reasons, it doesn't astound us that he was at it too. Second, it already feels a long time ago now. He and his competitors were the last generation of cyclists; we've got a new bunch to excite us now, and quite a few of them are British, which might create a parochial reason for our apathy. Third, although there are a few pro-wannabees out there, I would say that the majority of us aren't inspired to ride our bikes because of what we see any particular pro doing - yes, we admire them, yes, we want to ride the roads and classic climbs they do, but not because they in particular have done those things; we know we'll never be as good as them, and we know that where they ride are some of the best places to ride. Ultimately, we ride because we love it, not because we're trying to emulate someone else, so if they're proven to have cheated, particularly if it was a long time ago, well, so what?

Not that I'm riding my bike very much at the moment - I've got a week pencilled in at the start of October in Brittany to ride and run, principally to build fitness for my ultra-marathon later in October, the training for which is going ok.  The bank holiday weekend has helped of course, plus an unexpected day working from home on Friday, which has meant I've been able to train 4 days on the bounce for the first time in ages. Over the 4 days I've run 42 very hilly miles, without too much trouble. I did discover yesterday however when I was out on some rocky trails that I probably need some appropriate running shoes for the trails - road shoes felt a bit flimsy, comfortable as they are.

And finally.......the latest in my series of rants against misuse of the English language. I let the odd faux pas slip past uncommented on, but when I see something 3 times in the media I can't help myself. The latest abomination is saying/writing that something is "imminently sensible" (as opposed to eminently of course).  Grrr - it's like saying something isn't sensible at the moment, but hold on a sec.....just wait a it's sensible now...hooray!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Curate's egg

Writing a blog increases your knowledge about things you didn't realise you needed to know. Take this week for example. It's been a bit mixed, as I shall describe in a moment, hence why its title is curate's egg; we all know the line that follows someone's description of a thing being like the curate's egg is 'good in parts'. What I didn't know, however, until I wikied, was that the term derives from a Punch cartoon from 18 hundred-and-a-long-time-ago, the purpose of which was to to suggest that some things simply can't be partly good or partly bad, a bit like you can't be partly pregnant, and thereby expose the obsequiousness of the eponymous curate. So if my interpretation is right, when we describe something as a curate's egg we're misusing the term; it's not good in parts, it's unequivocally bad. Which wasn't my week at all, which begs the question as to whether my title of this nonsense is right. But it's there now, so away we go...

Good things first. Offspring #2 got straight As in his As, meaning he gets to go to Exeter Uni to do History & Philosophy, his first choice of place and subject. Phew. He worked very hard and deserves his success.

Second, the boy and I celebrated by a weekend of walking in the Shropshire hills, along Wenlock Edge and up and over the Long Mynd. This is becoming an annual trip for the two of us; we park in Church Stretton and walk a 30 mile circuit, staying somewhere near Craven Arms overnight. We walked clockwise rather than anti-clockwise this year by way of a change, which meant Saturday was the shorter leg, walked in warm weather. We had half an hour or so of rain on Sunday, but it didn't dampen our spirits - we had a great couple of days. Well I did anyway, you can't always tell with 18 year old boys can you? We drank beer, ate fish 'n' chips and ice cream, and watched Match of the Day though, so surely it can't have been all bad?

And then to complete the hattrick of son-related good things, he worked like a demon in our garden on Monday, clearing a massive, unkempt border. What a star.

Other good things have included HMRC cancelling a fine for late submission of a tax return (which wasn't justified in the first place, but that's not the point is it?), finding out just how close Brad and Cav will come to my house on the Tour of Britain (very), and the Vuelta being covered on poor person's telly (mine).

However, all that has been tinged with a bit of worry and sadness, nearly all of it involving the older generation. Howie Johnson wasn't that, but there's still something shocking about the premature death of someone you've known, even only slightly. Mendip Rouleur has blogged about his mum's circumstances. My mother's digestive problems don't compare to those, though we are waiting to establish the results both of her invasive medical tests, and the seriousness of my mother-in-law's liver problem. The next couple of weeks should tell us. Those are the worries.

The sadness concerns my stepmother, who, I learned, seems to be conducting a campaign among her and my father's friends to badmouth the conduct of my sister and I since our father's death couple of years ago. Ho hum. All the earlier things put that kind of pointless, destructive behaviour into context. I haven't the slightest intention of responding to it, and I'm not quite sure what she hopes to achieve. Learn and move on.

I can't end on that note though. The sun is shining, cycling is on tv as I write this, and a Bank Holiday weekend is imminent. The silver linings are re-asserting themselves.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Tom Kenyon

People with far more time, ability and insight than me have written countless column inches in the last few days about the wonderful Olympics that finished yesterday, so I don't intend to try to add any more thoughts. Not least because my involvement has been peripheral at best; I've watched it on TV of course, I've been in and around London whilst it's been happening, I know lots of people who've been to events (including the Murray and hockey finals), a gold medallist lives a mile or so from our house in France, and a good ex-Lloyds colleague was a Games Maker, but these are piffling things compared to being there in any form.

Well, go on then, perhaps just a couple of thoughts. First, a spectacularly banal one. I was struck by just how damn nice most of the Olympians were. There was no grunting, no obviously media-trained inanities, no avoiding the question, and no blaming officials, the weather or the price of cheese in the Congo for sub-standard performances. Just direct, simple, humble answers full of gratitude and in the case of the winners, joy. It was wonderful to witness, and I confess to having tears in my eyes and sometimes on my cheeks more times than I can recall in the last couple of weeks. In the first week of the Games I was in France, and in our little hamlet one of the TVs was always on, and we'd dash from house to house to see the latest triumph as roars erupted out of our open front doors. Cue kissing, clapping and celebratory curries. A small part of Bretagne was Grand Bretagne.

The second thought. Tom Kenyon. I was at school with Tom till we finished A levels. Tom read Physics at Oxford. He was an intellect, a radio ham, an eccentric. I've no idea where he is now or what he's doing. I do remember however than he hated football. A less obvious sportsman you couldn't wish to meet.

And yet he had a talent beyond his academic gifts. He could spin a cricket ball. He would never, and did never threaten to trouble the scorers when it came to representing his school at any sport other than cricket, and yet for 5 years he was a mainstay of the team I was proud to captain and take to the final of the county competition in 1982. We were the first comprehensive school to achieve that in Cheshire, and whilst we lost, our presence there alone was a massive triumph. And Tom was one of the factors that got us there, spinning his way through opposition batsmen. And had it not been for the fact that he and I sat next to each other in maths lessons he probably wouldn't have come to the nets where his talent was discovered. I scoffed when he first told me he was coming to those nets when we were both 13. I was wrong to of course, and it was my then PE teacher (Mike Brown; isn't it amazing how you can remember the names of influential teachers?) who observed that nearly everyone had a talent for something, which could blossom if it was nurtured and developed. That talent might not make us an Olympic champion, but it just could be a massive source of pleasure and sense of achievement.

And that's what I thought as I watched some of the Olympians in the so-called lesser sports; how did you get into that? How did you discover your talent? In some cases yes, money and privilege. But in Nicola Adams' case and countless others, I somehow doubt that. Most of us, I suspect, could find our own little niche if we wanted to, and I am talking about physical endeavours. So whilst it's brilliant that Team GB won so many medals, I really hope that one of the Games' legacies is that grassroots mass involvement sport develops, as well as the elite programmes being maintained. Those who are never going to win a medal need to be welcomed and encouraged just as much as the worldbeaters.

I'm in the no-hopers category of course, but I still love doing it. On Saturday I got up and out running for 7.15, and the canal towpath was finally dry enough for a decent run. And the weather was superb. I hadn't really done a meaningful distance for a good few weeks, so when nothing started hurting, and the weather held good, and the water supplies were still there, I just kept running, eventually running 25.5 miles in 3 hours 40. Ie just under a marathon, just over 40km. And after a cold water bath when I finished, and some quality protein in the form of homemade turkey burgers, I managed to do another 6.5 hilly miles on Sunday. Still I wasn't lame, so I've entered my first ultra-marathon, a 50km trail run in the Lake District in October. The distance isn't that much further than a regular marathon, but there's 2000 ft of climbing and some pretty tough surfaces. Time to step the training up, as far as work allows anyway.

That'll give me something to talk about over the next couple of months...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Coming very soon... a computer / tablet / smartphone of your choice, a 'proper' blog entry.

This one is just to say I'm cranking back into action after a wedding, a quiet week in France, a busy week at work, and lots of Olympics watching.

I've got a barbeque to prepare, packing to do, and much, much more fun right now, but with 3 nights in a hotel this week and no Olympics to distract me there's no excuse for not getting back in the swing of things...
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